National Signing Day 2020

Tompkins’ Little signs to run at New Mexico

By DENNIS SILVA II, Times Sports Editor
Posted 2/5/20

Growing up, Ryan Little looked up to Allyson Felix and Florence Griffith Joyner, or Flo Jo. She watched Michael Johnson compete in the 400-meter dash and wanted to go to Baylor for a long time because of him.

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National Signing Day 2020

Tompkins’ Little signs to run at New Mexico

Posted

Growing up, Ryan Little looked up to Allyson Felix and Florence Griffith Joyner, or Flo Jo. She watched Michael Johnson compete in the 400-meter dash and wanted to go to Baylor for a long time because of him.

She fell in love with track and field.

“I would always try to race boys and whoever I could,” the Tompkins senior sprinter/jumper said. “On the playground or wherever. Against my brother or whoever. I’m a competitive person and I wanted to race whenever I could.”

Little’s speed and moxie on the track earned her a full scholarship to run for the University of New Mexico, where she will compete in the 400 dash and other events for the Lobos.

Little signed with New Mexico on Jan. 16.

New Mexico won out over Rice. Little has familiarity with Albuquerque. For a year and a half, the Little family lived there toward the end of her father Mark Little’s professional baseball career.

“Lining up all my visits, I thought I was going to go to Rice,” Little said. “I’ve run my PR (personal record) there, I have friends there, and I was more comfortable on that visit. I also didn’t want to leave home. The coaches over there are phenomenal.

“But academically, it would have been tough on me, and I really wanted to make something out of track. I had this end-all goal. There were more track opportunities at New Mexico.”

Little got her passion for competition from Mark, who played four years of Major League Baseball with St. Louis, Colorado, Arizona and the New York Mets, and 13 years professionally overall.

“My dad has competed at the highest level in sports, and he kind of instilled that in me since an early age,” Little said. “He would read me quotes and tell me about what he thought about the 400, and from there I just wanted to be good at it. He’s really motivated me.”

Little has had an outstanding career for Tompkins.

She’s a two-time district champion in the 400 dash and the Katy ISD record holder in the event. She’s a regional qualifier in the 400 dash, 100-meter dash, 4x100 relay and long jump, and a regional finalist in the 400 dash and 100 dash.

Her PR is 55.7 seconds in the 400 dash.

“Ryan has been a leader for us for three years,” Tompkins girls track and field coach Amy Pitzel said. “She is the type of athlete that wants to be great and puts in the work to make it happen. She has a confidence to her when she competes that carries over to the rest of the team. I just think she is amazing.

“Ryan is stronger and faster because of the work she has put in during the offseason, and because she has been healthy all year.”

This season is the first in which Little is not beginning it while coming off an injury. In the past, she’s dealt with a broken arm, a growth-plate injury in her foot, and a fracture in her foot/shin.

Little competes in the 400 dash, 100 dash, 4x100 relay and long jump for the Falcons, and she will also get opportunities to compete in the 200-meter dash, 4x200 relay and 4x400 relay.

“I definitely want to have a good 4x100 year; we missed regionals by one spot last year,” Little said. “I want to go to state in the 400, which is my biggest goal. Also, we haven’t won a team district title, and I would like to do that, too, before I leave.”

Little talked to The Katy Times more about her college decision and career.

Q: What stood out about New Mexico?

A: “They have a really good (assistant) coach (Kurt Henry) who just came in. He’s actually the nephew of Pat Henry over at Texas A&M. He really believed in my talents. I believed in his training, that he could make me faster. Also, New Mexico is at altitude, and altitude training makes you faster whenever you come back down to lower levels. They also have indoor facilities, so you don’t have to travel for indoor meets. All the big schools come down and run there, and they have national championship meets. It’s a developing sprint program and I really liked it.”

Q: What do you like about the 400-meter dash?

A: “It’s different. Not everybody can do it. It’s a gut race all the way to the finish. It’s hard. It’s one of the hardest events to do in track and field, in my opinion. It’s technical, it’s a lot of training. You have to have that push and that drive after you come off that straightaway into the 300 (meters). The adrenaline is insane.”

Q: At what stage did you realize track was going to be something you wanted a career in?

A: “It had to be after junior high. My parents always told me I was fast, and I just gave it a try. Going into my freshman year, I was deciding what sport would be best for me and I just decided track was what I was really good at and could be the most successful in.”

Q: Coach Pitzel raves about your leadership. Does that come naturally or is it something you’ve had to work on?

A: “I’ve always been a leader, in my opinion. That’s how my parents raised me to be, especially when it comes to my little brother. Also, when I was a freshman, I was taken into the team so well. Everybody supported me. The seniors pushed me. All of that helped me fall in love with track and continue to do it. Because I knew how that felt, I wanted others to feel the same way, so they’re not uncomfortable. When you’re uncomfortable, you’re not putting the best version of yourself out there. Just to see them open up and get faster and stronger and they can come up to you with questions … it’s so cool seeing them get better, too.”

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